This past weekend, the Sierra Club’s Mission Outdoors had the opportunity to participate in two very different kinds of listening and leadership development workshop in Washington State and in Colorado. Today we’ll discuss Washington State, and tomorrow we’ll share with you how the first Troops to Public Lands project went in Colorado.
Twenty total participants, including full time Mission Outdoors staff, Sierra Club volunteers, and 14 active duty or veteran participants, including a physical therapist at Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Warrior Transition Battalion, a veteran employed by the Department of Labor, and the head of the Navy’s Outdoor Program, and a representative from Mt. Rainier National Park, all joined together for a weekend to discuss how we, the Sierra Club, can work directly with the military family and veteran community.
First of all, a hearty thanks of gratitude to all of those who participated to make the weekend a success and special thanks to Maria and Ben from IslandWood who were impeccable hosts.
The bottom line is, we feel strongly at the Sierra Club that we have something all veterans and military families need: the infrastructure support, skills, and training to get outside and enjoy and explore the planet. At the same time, our military has something we need: strong leaders who are adaptable, flexible, and willing to challenge and support their community in efforts to get outside. As one of the participants, an acting Sergeant Major in an Armor Battalion said, “We don’t want hand outs, we don’t need hand outs. We want to be partners. We want to help you to help us.” It’s a partnership of equals and ultimately, not a charity, but to borrow from the Mission Continues, a challenge.
There are no free lunches in the outdoors. We may help you get to the trail head, teach you the skills you need to be safe and have a good time while on the trail, but only you, can make yourself move up that trailhead.
There are, however, potential barriers of perception within the psyche of both communities (Sierra Club and veteran / military) that may prevent close cooperation. You could see it the first evening when we all got together in the lodge at our base camp for the evening at IslandWood Schools on Bainbridge Island just west of Seattle. It did not take long, however, for common threads of understanding between different individuals to weave together in what, by the end of the workshop on Sunday afternoon, was a solid team.At the end of the day, the fact that everyone got along should not be a surprise. We were there to discuss the benefits of being outdoors and time in wilderness as a critical component to a healthy, engaged life. We threw out the back door all that could have divided us and created a plan for a first few steps to integrate Mission Outdoors with the military community in the Northwest.
After all, a puffy down vest made by Browning or a puffy down vest made by Patagonia is still, a puffy down vest! We’ll be taking our next strong step together with a weekend outing to Mt. Rainier in July and leadership training in early August. Hope to see you there!
~Stacy Bare, OIF Veteran
Military Families and Veteran Representative to the Sierra Club
"Helping America's Military and Veteran Community experience the freedom of the land they defend"